A Case for Distraction (aka The Problem with Being Present)
My nails are perfectly painted in Essie’s Limited Addiction.
I know this because I keep looking at them as if I am a scientist studying the art of manicure. When in actuality I am a writer practicing the art of distraction. (In fairness, I don’t need much practice in this, I’m pretty good at it.)
Unlike my trendy nail color, distraction is not popular these days. There’s just so much of it. It’s the technology, of course. The texts, the pings, the alarms, the alerts— it’s so easy to be interrupted. Then there’s Netflix with easy to get hooked on shows (Manic, Wanderlust, The Kominsky Method) and brilliant slide from one episode to the next - making procrastination practically inevitable.
Of course, technology just expedites that which has been there all along. The desire to distract oneself from the painful present moment has been around for thousands of years (and presumably is what Buddha was discussing at the time).
Which makes sense. Because the pain of the present moment is unchanged, regardless of the era we are in, the country we are in, the job we are in, the relationship we are in, the body we are in. The pain exists because we’re human and our human experience comes in more than a one-shade offering of Joy or Happiness. It’s got Pain and Fear and Shame and Discomfort and Grief and Envy and much, much more.
(There are three clouds moving gently but rather quickly towards my window, I’ll just wait til they pass. Here comes another.)
With so many emotions to avoid, wouldn’t it make sense that we welcome our distractions?
(The string of Hannuka lights we put above the door is hanging too low. Someone is going to push the door open and it’ll fall down in their face. Have to fix that. Need a ladder. Maybe I’ll wait for dear son to get home. What am I making for dinner tonight?)
That’s the thing with distractions. They distract us from the seriousness of what we are up to. From carrying out our purpose, from reaching our potential, from doing our work and from being our best selves.
Except that all of those are distractions, too. From feeling our grief, our desires, our fear that our reality will never be as good as our fantasy. Mostly, they distract us from the inevitable truth that inevitably, one day, this will all be over. (That’s the problem with being present all the time, it hurts too damn much.) The serious, the fun, the grief, the joy, the hurt, the happiness, the hate, the love. The hundreds of shades of humanity that we spend all day embracing or avoiding based on what’s up in the moment.
(I am obsessed with The Romanoffs right now. But I hate that Amazon makes me wait every week to watch a new one. As if I can’t control my watching impulse. Over to Netflix I go.)
Please! You’re almost done!
In which case, distraction is no better or worse a state of being than any other. It’s just where you are in this moment. It may even be good for fostering creativity. Either way, it doesn’t matter, it will be swapped out sooner than my Limited Addiction. For some other state of being or emotion that you will either love or dread. Enjoy or suffer. I wish you that the former be long and plentiful, and that the latter be short and far apart. But in case of the latter, if you’re looking for distraction, I wish you a guilt-free binge on the distraction of your choice.
(Shit. I have to go. Next episode starts in four, three, two,